Tackling the puzzle of opening an all-ages venue


Music is the adolescent signifier; it shapes friendships, style and worldview. Over the tiniest trinkets--a Dead Kennedy's patch stitched onto a Jansport or a Grateful Dead bumper sticker slapped on the back of a beat up Volvo--social scenes fracture and converge. But in Boise, where kids younger than 21 aren't admitted to venues that serve alcohol without food, the opportunity for teens to catch their musical idols in the flesh has been greatly curtailed.

"Generally, in Idaho's music scene, there aren't very many all-ages music venues," said Clint Vickery, member of local band Spondee. "House shows are a lot of fun, but they're not seen well. They're not taken well by the community. And eventually they get shut down."

With such a limited array of smaller-capacity all-ages outlets available to teens--the Venue, Knitting Factory (which serves food), Flying M Coffeegarage, Brawl Studio--it's difficult to nurture a lasting appreciation for live music. That's something, Vickery argues, that has also stunted the 21-and-older music scene in Boise.

"If kids don't start developing a love to go see live music when they're young, they don't have that when they're older," said Vickery. "So, the only reason they're going to go and see it is because it's at a bar. They're not going for the music, they're going for the alcohol."

Fortunately for local underagers, there are a couple of new alcohol-free live music options in town. Brawl Studio, an all-ages hardcore/metal venue, recently opened in Garden City, and in September, Vickery and some pals plan to open Colorcube, an all-ages music and arts space in a yet-to-be-secured building near Boise State.

"We're providing opportunities to youth, but we don't want it to be a teen center," said Vickery. "But it is definitely ... catering toward the youth culture. Basically, when we don't have shows, we're going to be having art classes, music classes, dance classes."

When Vickery, 23, his wife Melissa, 23, and their friends James and Lindsey Lloyd (age 26 and 25 respectively) surveyed Boise's all-ages venue options, they noticed a gaping hole. While the Venue caters to pop-punk/emo acts and Brawl Studio has snagged a hunk of the hardcore/punk scene, the indie-pop/folk community in Boise is lacking.

"We're just trying to do something different than the Venue, namely stylistically, in genres of music we're booking," said Vickery. "It'll be electronic, pop, indie. Those are all really vague terms, but it's that style that isn't seen very much at the Venue."

And while it might seem like Colorcube's low-top Chucks will be stepping on the Venue's Vans, Venue promoter Jaclyn Brandt sees it differently.

"We get offered a lot of shows that we could probably make money on, but if it's something that doesn't really fit the Venue ... wherever the fans are going to be happiest, that's definitely where it should go," explained Brandt. "We all do have our little personalities and it works well for all of us."

But while venues might work together to hash out which shows are the best fit for their space and audience, all-ages clubs are still, by their boozeless nature, at a disadvantage.

"Obviously, we do have laws here where you can't just have an all-ages venue with alcohol ... For us, we have to sell tickets and that's it. Other people can survive off alcohol, but we can't," said Brandt. "So, then our ticket prices become $10, where maybe somebody else could do the show for $5."

Another set-back for all-ages venues according to Eric Muniz, one of the founders of Brawl Studio, is the fact that out-of-town acts often tour through Boise on weeknights, which can be a hard sell for parents.

"The one thing about our particular town is there's a lot of music that comes through here, but it's not widely perceived as a music town," said Muniz. "It's a C-market so you end up having a lot of Mondays and Tuesdays for touring bands because they don't want to play here on a Friday or Saturday because they can make their money in Seattle or Portland, [Ore.]"

Though both Brawl Studio and Colorcube are functioning as nonprofits, Colorcube plans to integrate a retail arts and crafts arm as an alternate revenue source to help keep doors open. Budding local artists and makers will be able to consign their goods to Colorcube--with a price ceiling of $300--and 60 percent of the profits on goods sold will go to the artist and the rest will go to Colorcube.

"I've always thought [art and music] go hand in hand ... album art, T-shirts; it's a big part of the music as well," said James Lloyd, Colorcube's art director. "And I think people who are into music are also usually into visual art--just looking for deeper things and images. It's the same crowd."

In addition to selling artwork, Colorcube will also cultivate a street team of local high school and college kids to promote events and, eventually, curate their own shows in the space. The venue plans to host a maximum of three concerts a week--Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights--and all shows will end by 11 p.m. to keep ma and pa off their backs.

"We really want to make sure, too, that it's a place where parents feel comfortable sending their teenage kids," said Melissa Vickery.

Though the viability of these two new venues--both Brawl and Colorcube--in the Boise market is yet to be seen, their mere existence is being heralded by some as the dawn of a new era in the Boise music scene.

"Three to four years down the road, the 21-and-over music scene is going to see the benefits of it," said Vickery. "They're going to make more money--those bars are--in alcohol, admission, everything. If [live music appreciation] is not cultivated when they're in high school so they develop that desire, then it's just not going to happen."